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Posts tagged ‘Caucasus Emirate’

Iraq’s Caucasus tribes demand formal recognition

December 9, 2016

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq — Three Iraqi Caucasus tribes are uniting to seek recognition under the Iraqi Constitution. The Circassians, Chechens and Dagestanis want to unify their communities under one national name, “Caucasus,” much like the Christians of Iraq did when they formed the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council political party in 2007.

The tribes seek formal recognition in the constitution to guarantee equal rights and legal protection from violence against minorities. On Nov. 24, the nongovernmental organization Masarat for Cultural and Media Development (MCMD) hosted a meeting of representatives of the three groups in the Sulaimaniyah governorate in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. There, they asked to be included among Iraqi minorities and officially declared their demands. MCMD is preparing a draft law regarding rights for minorities that it will submit to parliament.

Ahmed Kataw, the leader of Circassians in Iraq, spoke to Al-Monitor about these demands, saying, “The Iraqi Constitution should recognize the Iraqi Caucasus tribes — Circassians, Chechens and Dagestanis — like the rest of the officially recognized minorities. Their names should be included within the Iraqi minorities protected under the draft law. … We want to make sure the Caucasian minorities are represented in the parliament according to the quota system, by virtue of which other minorities are represented.”

The Caucasus tribes were late presenting their demands to MCMD because, they said, they were unable to form a political party to represent them at the official level, and there were disagreements about selecting leaders to convey these demands.

Kataw said tense security situations, such as scattered armed confrontations and the battle against the Islamic State, have made it risky to start a political movement. “We did not form a political party. We did, however, start establishing a cultural-social organization called Solidarity Association back in 2004, headquartered in Kirkuk,” he said. “As a representative of the Circassians in Iraq, I have served as vice president of the association, and a Chechen was nominated president, while the secretary-general was a Dagestani. The 450 members of the general assembly took a vote, but the security conditions impeded us from turning the association into a political body. In addition, we were afraid we would be dominated by major political movements once we had announced we were forming an independent political party.”

Adnan Abdul Bari, who represents the Dagestanis in the Solidarity Association, spoke to Al-Monitor about the importance of joint work between the representatives of the Caucasus tribes. “These tribes are considered from the same origins. Their common history, geography, culture and traditions differentiate them from other tribes,” he said. “They have the identity of the peoples of the North Caucasus, so it is time for them to come forward as one people with a single cultural identity.”

The small number of Caucasus tribes and the fact that they are not concentrated geographically has weakened their participation in public life.

Researcher Mohammed Hussein Dagestani, the editor of the magazine Tadamon (Solidarity), which is concerned with Circassians, Chechens and Dagestanis, is head of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate in Kirkuk. He told Al-Monitor, “Russia forced the Caucasus tribes into displacement in 1864. They had to move from North Caucasus to Turkish territory, and the Ottomans then forced them out to Jordan, Syria and Iraq.”

Hussein Dagestani added, “This tragedy is similar to some experienced by other minorities, such as the Armenians, who fled to Iraq and other countries after the massacres committed by the Turks in 1915. We also share some experiences with the Yazidis, who had been subjected to a series of genocides, most recently by the Islamic State in 2016.”

Mazen Abdul Rahman, the Chechen representative of the Solidarity Association, told Al-Monitor there are scattered Chechen settlements, but “there are no settlements for either Dagestanis or Circassians because they are rather integrated into the urban centers.”

According to Katwa, there are more than 15,000 Caucasians, and the tribes’ representatives agree that the Chechens are ranked first in terms of number, followed by the Dagestanis, then the Circassians.

Only a limited number of seniors in Caucasus families still speak Caucasian languages, but their numbers are gradually decreasing, which means their languages will inevitably be forgotten.

Another factor contributing to the demise of Caucasian culture is their way of blending in and their refusal to stand out in society. They act as Arabs in Arab areas, as Kurds in Kurdish areas and Turkmen in Turkmen areas. The Caucasian families who lived in Shiite-dominated areas embraced the Shiite sect, while those who lived in Sunni areas followed the Sunni sect.

However, the long years of blending in did not stop these tribes from practicing their traditions, such as applying the norms and principles of the so-called Adiga law, by virtue of which parents and grandparents have to follow Caucasus traditions when it comes to marriage, childbirth and other social occasions.

Source: al-Monitor.

Link: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/12/caucasus-circassians-chechens-dagestanis-iraq.html/.

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Kadyrov to seek new term as Chechen president

July 02, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin-backed strongman leader of Chechnya says he will seek another term in office. Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s president since 2007, had said earlier this year that he considered his mission to be complete. His term was to expire in April, but Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed him interim leader until a September election.

Russian news agencies cited Kadyrov as saying Saturday he has filed to run in the election. Putin has relied on Kadyrov to stabilize Chechnya after two separatist wars, effectively allowing him to rule the region like a personal fiefdom. Critics allege human rights violations have been widespread under Kadyrov.

The suspected triggerman in the 2015 killing of prominent Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov was an officer in Kadyrov’s security force.

Report blames Chechen leader over killing of Kremlin critic

February 23, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian opposition activist bluntly accused Chechnya’s Moscow-backed regional leader of involvement in the killing of a prominent Kremlin foe, describing the Chechen strongman as a top security threat to Russia in a report released Tuesday.

Ilya Yashin said he had “no doubt” that Ramzan Kadyrov was behind the killing of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Feb. 27, 2015, outside the Kremlin in Moscow. Yashin said he was sure the suspected triggerman, an officer in Kadyrov’s security force, and his alleged accomplices wouldn’t have acted without Kadyrov’s approval. Kadyrov has denied the accusations and the official probe has failed to identify the mastermind behind the murder.

The Chechen leader posted a link to Yashin’s report on his Instagram account, where he has 1.7 million followers, and other social networks hours before its official release, dismissing it as “chatter.”

Yashin’s presentation of the report at the opposition party’s headquarters in Moscow Tuesday was interrupted by a bomb threat and police moved to clear the hall. An unidentified protester threw replica U.S. dollars at Yashin, suggesting perceived U.S. support for the Russian opposition.

In his report, Yashin accused Kadyrov of misappropriating generous federal subsidies to Chechnya to enrich himself and his loyalists and relying on a personal army of 30,000 to enforce his rule. “Chechnya has become a separate state within the Russian state,” Yashin said. “Kadyrov effectively rejects the federal law and ignores the Russian constitution.”

President Vladimir Putin has relied on Kadyrov to stabilize the region in Russia’s North Caucasus after two devastating separatist wars. The gruff 39-year-old succeeded his father, the former rebel who switched sides to become Chechnya’s first Moscow-backed leader before dying in a rebel bombing in 2004.

Kadyrov has used personal ties with Putin to ensure a steady flow of federal funds and effective immunity from federal controls. His unparalleled clout has angered leaders of Russia’s powerful law enforcement agencies, who have pushed for Kadyrov’s dismissal.

The killing of Nemtsov, who was shot dead while walking across a bridge outside the Kremlin, reportedly made Putin mad and emboldened Kadyrov’s foes. The probe into the killing has bogged down, however, apparently reflecting Putin’s view of Kadyrov as a linchpin of stability in Chechnya.

Tensions around Kadyrov heightened in recent weeks when he launched scathing criticism of Russian opposition leaders. With Kadyrov’s term set to expire in early April, some observers saw his statements as an attempt to secure Putin’s support for keeping the job.

In a radio interview broadcast Tuesday, Kadyrov mixed obedience with expressions of unswerving loyalty to the Russian president, saying he was proud to be a “foot soldier” of Putin ready to step down when he says so.

“If they tell me to keep on serving I will serve, and if they say goodbye I will bid farewell,” Kadyrov said. He added that he dreams about leading a military unit to fight “enemies of Russia.” Yashin strongly called for Kadyrov’s ouster, describing his regime as a “threat to national security.”

“Vladimir Putin has placed a time bomb in the North Caucasus that may blow up in case of any serious political crisis and turn into a third Chechen war,” he said.

Car bomb kills 2 police, wounds 19 in Russia’s Dagestan

February 15, 2016

MAKHACHKALA, Russia (AP) — A powerful car bomb exploded Monday at a police checkpoint in Russia’s Dagestan republic, killing two officers and the car’s driver and wounding 19 others, in what appears to have been a suicide attack, investigators said.

The attack was believed to have been organized by Islamic militants who have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group and carried out by a man who spent time in Syria, said Rasul Temirbekov, spokesman for the Dagestani branch of the federal Investigative Committee.

The explosion, set off by two 122 mm shells, destroyed the Russian-made Lada Priori and four other vehicles parked at the police post near Derbent, he said. All that remained of the Lada’s driver were fragments of his head, hands and feet, the spokesman said.

The suspected attacker was tentatively identified as a 23-year-old man who had studied in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan and spent time in Syria and Turkey, Temirbekov said. A search of his father’s home in Derbent turned up materials confirming the suspect’s allegiance to the Islamic State and past travels, he said.

Dagestan has become the center of an Islamic insurgency that spread across the Caucasus region after two separatist wars in neighboring Chechnya. For more than a decade, Dagestan has seen bombings, attacks on police and kidnappings blamed on the Islamic militants.

In recent years, many of the militants have proclaimed allegiance to IS, while at the same time the republic has grown markedly less violent as hundreds of them have left to join the IS in Syria. Some are now coming home with battlefield experience. While the returning fighters usually land in jail or are kept under close police surveillance, there have been concerns that the presence of radical Muslims trained in IS warfare could lead to greater instability and violence.

“Those who went to fight in Syria are now returning to the republic and continuing to do the same things — to bomb and kill,” Dagestan’s regional leader, Abdusamad Gamidov, told members of his administration on Monday. “We need to unite to fight terrorism and do everything to defend our residents.”

His spokeswoman, Tamara Chinennaya, said 16 of the wounded remained hospitalized, three of them in critical condition. Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the IS threat to Russia as a key factor behind his decision to launch air strikes on militants in Syria. He said that between 5,000 and 7,000 people from Russia and other former Soviet countries are now fighting alongside Islamic State militants.

Meanwhile, Russia’s air campaign in Syria has drawn threats of retaliation from militants there.

Chechen wedding scandal, leader’s defiance put Putin in bind

May 19, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) — The groom is approaching 50, a silver-haired boss in the Chechen strongman’s feared police force. The bride is 17, a shy beauty reportedly devastated at the idea of wedding a man nearly three times her age.

Many Russians expressed outrage over the nuptials, causing a firestorm in the media and putting Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov — a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — on the defensive. The wedding went forward over the weekend anyway, the bride deathly pale and her voice barely audible as she agreed to marry Nazhud Guchigov, who reportedly was taking her as his second wife as allowed by Islamic, but not Russian, law.

Kadyrov’s chief of staff played the best man, clutching the bride by the elbow to control her every step, and Kadyrov himself danced a folk dance at the wedding reception. The scandal comes amid a tug-of-war between Kadyrov and Russian federal law enforcement, which escalated after the slaying of charismatic Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Kadyrov’s defiance in shielding Chechen suspects in the killing has aggravated longstanding tensions between him and Russian security agencies. That creates a headache for Putin, left with the delicate task of moderating the conflict to avoid destabilizing the region.

The tensions are unlikely to spark open hostilities or lead to Kadyrov’s removal. But they reflect an apparent effort by the Kremlin to cut the 38-year-old Chechen leader down to size and make him obey the rules — even as Putin continues to stand by Kadyrov.

Kadyrov has enjoyed an exclusive relationship with Putin, who saw him as the linchpin for peace in Chechnya after two devastating separatist wars that killed tens of thousands. In exchange for restoring stability, Putin gave Kadyrov, a former rebel, carte blanche to run the region in the North Caucasus as his personal fiefdom and funded a costly reconstruction.

The relationship goes beyond Realpolitik. Putin, a macho judo master, and Kadyrov, a gruff red-head with a penchant for boxing, have developed a close personal relationship. Kadyrov has issued a stream of adulatory statements, calling himself Putin’s “foot soldier” and launching diatribes at the West and Putin’s domestic opponents. And with Kadyrov’s apparent blessing, Chechens have poured into eastern Ukraine to fight alongside pro-Russian rebels.

Putin’s patronage has allowed Kadyrov to effectively shed federal controls. He makes it clear he listens to the president and nobody else. And he has imposed some Islamic rules, overruling federal law, allowing men in Chechnya to take several wives and introducing a tight dress code for women.

Lavish reconstruction projects along with Kadyrov’s promotion of Islamic law and his rejection of federal controls have helped swell his popularity, enhancing stability. The Kremlin, in turn, has sheltered the Chechen leader from criticism over killings, abductions, torture and other abuses by his feared security forces.

Federal police and security services have been all but invisible in Chechnya, unable to make a move without Kadyrov’s permission. That has worried many, who say the much-touted order in Chechnya hinges on the Putin-Kadyrov relationship and could be upset quickly if it falls apart.

“Kadyrov’s behavior long has caused irritation,” said Grigory Shvedov, editor-in-chief of the Caucasian Knot, an online news portal focusing on the Caucasus. Kadyrov’s protective shield started to crack after Nemtsov was gunned down on Feb. 27 just outside the Kremlin, and federal investigators quickly tracked down and arrested five alleged perpetrators, all Chechen. The suspected triggerman was an officer in Kadyrov’s police force.

The top brass in Russian law-enforcement agencies, who have always detested the Chechen leader, saw Nemtsov’s killing as an opportunity to settle scores. But Putin, while calling the slaying a “disgrace” for Russia, awarded Kadyrov with a medal underlining his support.

The Chechen leader was at first openly defiant, praising the suspected triggerman as a good patriot and a deeply religious man. When federal investigators tried to get to another key suspect, a senior officer in the Chechen police force, they were unable to interrogate him in Chechnya, where he enjoyed police protection.

Despite the setback, federal law enforcers kept up the pressure. In April, police in southern Russia made a surprise foray into Chechnya to nab a suspect in a separate criminal case, and shot the man dead when he resisted arrest.

A day later, a furious Kadyrov ordered his forces to shoot to kill any police from outside the region if they dared to venture into Chechnya. With the brash statement, Kadyrov sought to burnish his credentials as a ruler on par with Putin and above federal law.

He may have hoped that Putin would side with him once again. But Kadyrov miscalculated. While Putin did not publicly comment, his spokesman said in a steely statement that Chechen police should unconditionally obey federal authority.

Realizing his blunder, Kadyrov quickly backed off and offered new pledges of loyalty, saying he would step down if ordered to do so. The tensions have abated, but the investigation into Nemtsov’s killing remains deadlocked.

The latest blow to Kadyrov came earlier this month, when a leading independent newspaper reported that the 46-year-old Guchigov was forcing a 17-year-old into becoming his second wife by blocking her village so she couldn’t leave.

Kadyrov stood by the police chief, saying the girl and her family voluntarily agreed to the wedding. The Chechen leader also fired his information minister, accusing him of failing to quash what he described as slanderous reports.

The teenage bride, blushing and looking down, told a news portal controlled by the Kremlin that she faced no intimidation. The Russian children’s rights ombudsman also said he looked into the case and found no violations.

The wedding took place Saturday in Chechnya’s capital, with the bride looking stiff as she was escorted by Kadyrov’s black-clad chief of staff. The quiet resolution of the scandal signaled that Moscow had decided that Kadyrov had been taught a lesson and there was no need to push things further.

In past years, Kadyrov’s men have operated with impunity not just in Chechnya but also on the streets of Moscow. In 2008, one of Kadyrov’s most prominent foes was shot dead just outside Russian government headquarters. Several Chechens were convicted of perpetrating the attack, but the organizers have never been found. Two years earlier, another Kadyrov rival with ties to federal security was shot and killed in central Moscow.

Russian media reported that Chechen businessmen have dramatically expanded their clout in Moscow under Kadyrov, and some members of his feared security forces have been permanently deployed there to help protect Chechen interests and act as musclemen in business disputes. Some reports claimed that Chechens have even challenged the murky economic interests of Russia’s law enforcement agencies, which have considered themselves omnipotent under Putin.

With a multi-pronged attack on Kadyrov, federal law-enforcement chiefs clearly want to reorder the rules of the game and strip Kadyrov of his exclusive status. Putin himself may welcome the idea, sensing that the Chechen strongman was shaking his “vertical of power.”

“I wouldn’t exclude Kadyrov’s dismissal,” Shvedov said, arguing that the Chechen’s purported role as a guarantor of stability may be overestimated, and that a new conflict in Chechnya was unlikely even if he were arrested, because Kadyrov’s men wouldn’t take up arms against Putin.

But others believe that Putin still sees Kadyrov as key to Chechen peace. Alexei Malashenko, a Chechnya expert with Carnegie Endowment’s Moscow office, said that Kadyrov has reaffirmed his special status by pushing through the wedding despite the media uproar. He said that while tensions between Kadyrov and law enforcement chiefs will likely continue, Putin can be expected to stand by the strongman.

“It makes no sense to replace him,” he said. “It will lead to infighting and instability in Chechnya.”

Chechen commander in Ukraine drawn into Russian intrigue

April 12, 2015

LYSYCHANSK, Ukraine (AP) — From a dimly lit room at his base in eastern Ukraine, the commander of a battalion of Chechens fighting Russia-backed rebels looked shaken as TV broadcast news of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov’s slaying. Adam Osmayev hailed Nemtsov as a “true hero” both for condemning Russia’s war against separatists in Chechnya and for decrying Russian intervention in the current conflict in Ukraine.

“Watch them try to tie Ukraine to this (murder) in some way,” Osmayev added. He was half-joking. But two weeks later, Kremlin-friendly Russian newspapers published reports based on unidentified sources in the security services that accused the Ukrainian government and also Osmayev himself of ordering the Feb. 27 murder of Nemtsov in central Moscow in an attempt to destabilize Russia.

Osmayev denies involvement and no evidence has been presented linking him to the hit on Nemtsov, who was a relentless critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Attempts to implicate the British-educated Chechen commander appear to be part of efforts aimed at deflecting attention from anyone close to Putin, including his security services and the powerful leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Within days of Nemtsov’s assassination, investigators arrested five Chechens, including a senior officer in Kadyrov’s police force, and charged them with carrying out the killing. All five have denied the charges.

The arrests heralded a crisis in relations between the Kremlin and Kadyrov, who rules Chechnya like a personal fiefdom. With generous subsidies from Moscow, he has rebuilt the region after two separatist wars and has relied on his feared security forces to track down and kill foes. His men have steadily expanded their sway beyond Chechnya to control lucrative businesses in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia.

Leaders of federal law enforcement agencies have watched Kadyrov’s growing power with dismay and have made no secret of their desire to curb him. Some observers speculated that the killing might have been ordered by Kadyrov’s enemies in the federal government — an attempt to prompt Putin to fire or at least punish the Chechen leader.

If such a plan existed, it underestimated Putin’s reliance on Kadyrov. The relative stability in Chechnya is seen as one of Putin’s main achievements, and he sees the burly red-haired Chechen strongman as key to maintaining the status quo.

Putin quickly sent a signal that he intended to stand by Kadyrov by awarding him the Order of Honor for distinguished public service, a day after Kadyrov spoke out in defense of the arrested Chechens.

The arrests were a rare case in which federal law enforcement agents managed to nab a member of Kadyrov’s security force, but the investigation then seemed to fizzle. Russian media, citing investigators, have pointed to a possible link between the suspected triggerman, Zaur Dadaev, and his commander, Ruslan Geremeyev, a senior officer in the Chechen police force. But Geremeyev is in Chechnya and off limits to federal investigators.

Russian newspapers have floated a variety of theories about the killing that have muddied the waters — a possible attempt to defuse tensions with Kadyrov. Some reports claimed that investigators believe Dadaev and his suspected accomplices could have acted on their own, even though most observers agree that a senior officer in Kadyrov’s security force would not have acted without sanction from his superiors.

Dadaev, in turn, has rescinded his initial testimony, saying he was beaten and pressured to confess. The reports pointing to Osmayev, a Kadyrov foe, were seen as part of these efforts to deflect attention.

“State-controlled media have put forward a theory that is politically satisfying for Russia’s security forces, the Kremlin, Kadyrov and all of their rival groups — namely, that Chechen Adam Osmayev ordered Nemtsov’s murder,” political analyst Georgy Bovt wrote in a commentary published in The Moscow Times.

Osmayev, 33, has a troubled history with both Kadyrov and Putin. After graduating from Wycliffe College, a prestigious private school in Britain, and attending the University of Buckingham, he returned to his native Chechnya shortly after the second war there ended in 2000. He worked alongside his father, who had been appointed the head of Chechnya’s state oil company.

Chechnya at that time was led by Kadyrov’s father. After his assassination in 2004, power passed to his son, Ramzan, and his relationship with the Osmayevs quickly deteriorated in a dispute over lucrative energy contracts. The Osmayevs fled to Ukraine.

In February 2012, Adam Osmayev was arrested at Russia’s behest and charged with planning an assassination attempt against Putin. Ukraine at the time had a pro-Kremlin government. Osmayev spent three years in detention until being released in November 2014 by Ukraine’s new Western-leaning government.

Shortly after his release, he joined a battalion formed by prominent Chechen commander Isa Munayev to fight against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. When Munayev was killed on Feb. 1, Osmayav took over the command.

His battalion includes several dozen Chechens, many with combat experience gained in the separatist wars in their homeland against Russian army troops. They regularly get calls from Ukrainian army units asking them to carry out reconnaissance missions or diversionary raids behind rebel lines.

Hundreds of Chechens also are fighting on the separatist side. They first joined the rebels last summer in the early stages of the conflict, and with their combat gear and professional demeanor they stood out among what was then a ragtag local force. Kadyrov has described pro-Russia Chechens fighting in Ukraine as volunteers, the same explanation the Kremlin provides for the Russians among the separatist forces.

Osmayev said he has few doubts that the perpetrators of Nemtsov’s killing have ties to Kadyrov, but that the security services now need a convenient scapegoat whose guilt would be easily acceptable to the Russian general public.

“The fact the FSB is . trying to somehow implicate me in Nemtsov’s murder is utterly ridiculous,” Osmayev said, “but not hard to believe now that I am involved in the situation here in Ukraine.”

Lynn Berry and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Chechen leader: militants’ families to be deported

December 05, 2014

MOSCOW (AP) — Following a rebel raid that left 25 people dead, Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed strongman said Friday the families of rebels who take part in killings will now be punished by being deported and having their houses destroyed.

Thursday’s clashes in Grozny dented a carefully nurtured image of stability created by Chechnya’s regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov after two separatist conflicts. The violence raised fears of more attacks in Chechnya and widening unrest in the rest of Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region.

Kadyrov, who has relied on his feared security force of former rebels like himself to pacify the province, said he would avenge the deaths of 14 police officers, including his relative, who died in clashes with the Islamic rebels. He said 11 attackers were killed and 36 policemen were wounded. Earlier official reports had said 10 police officers and 10 rebels were killed.

In a message Thursday on his Instagram account, which Kadyrov uses to issue public statements, he said that “the time when they said that parents can’t be held accountable for the action of their sons and daughters has come to an end.”

He warned that a father who sees that his son has joined the rebels should report him to the authorities or stop him by any other means before he spills blood. “If a militant in Chechnya kills a policeman or any other person, the militant’s family will be immediately banished from Chechnya without the right to come back, and their house will be razed to the ground,” Kadyrov said.

He said he wouldn’t care about criticism from rights activists. International human rights groups long have accused Kadyrov of rampant abuses, including arbitrary arrest, torture and extrajudicial killings.

Kadyrov said he also warned local administrators and police officials that they would have to resign if any local man joins the militants.

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